Friday, May 24, 2013

Downsizing to a Mini-Van

Dear friends,

I've got new wheels!  Well, maybe not NEW new, but new to me.  We finally downsized to a mini-van, a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan that I call my Grand Cherryvan.  

Most families have to UPsize to a mini-van, but I've been driving a full-size (11 or 15 passenger) van for the past 16 years since the sixth of our ten children was born.  Until last week, that is.  Now I'm only ever driving around 5 kids, and our big van was a gas hog, so it was time to scale down to something with much better MPG.  My husband put an ad on Craigslist to sell our old green Ford van, and it was promptly claimed by a home schooling family who is expecting their seventh baby (all under eight years old!) and moving to Tennessee to live off the land.  Godspeed to them.

Then came the work of finding wheels for me.  We looked on Craigslist, CarMax, AutoNation and a bunch of other sites.  We researched which vans had what features, and which models were most reliable.  My husband spent a full Saturday visiting dealerships.

On Monday, we ventured out together as a team.  He'd been looking at Chrysler Town & Country vans and wanted to take me to see one at a dealer he had visited about a half hour from us.  Unfortunately, it was in the service bay and couldn't be seen again until the next day.  So we headed down to another dealer to look at another T & C.  My son-in-law, who is a mechanic, even came over to look at it.   The price was right, and we nearly bought it, but...

Something in my Mama Radar wasn't happy.  First of all, it was supposed to be a seven passenger van, but the rear seat was actually two bucket seats right next to each other with a third seat belt spanning the gap and some hard plastic joints jutting up.  In other words, it was possible for three to sit there, but only comfortable for two.  That would not be good if we were running at full capacity, such as when I take six kids on a 2,000 mile vacation next month.  Then, too, you couldn't move the two middle row seats forward to make more leg room for the back ones, and it was pretty tight.  There was very little storage space behind the back row.  Where would we put luggage?  And the only air conditioning vents were in the front.  Oh, I could imagine the whining that can ensue from lack of space and fresh air on even a short trip.

So... I held out.  The dealership had wi-fi, so I popped onto my handy little iPod Touch and looked up one last dealer, Greenway Dodge, a bit further away.  They had a Dodge Caravan in our price range, so off we went.  I'm glad we did.  The salesman, Craig Kennedy, was willing to work with us to bring the price down, throw in a warranty, and even top off the gas tank for us.  And I love this van!  My kids are SO excited with it, even after several days.

This van has a comfortable back bench seat, with air conditioning vents on each side.  The seats (in two sections) can fold and flip backward into the Stow and Go back storage area to make plenty of cargo space.  

When the seats are not flipped down into the Stow and Go area, there is ample room back there -- both horizontally and vertically -- for suitcases or groceries or whatever else I'm hauling around.  

See?  I told you so!  I can't wait to pack for vacation!

The two middle row seats slide forward and back.  They, too, can fold down and flip forward into a storage area underneath the flip-up floor panels.  This gives a LOT of cargo space if I want to haul something bigger. That's good, because I'm known to pick up free furniture off of curbs. :-)

Grand Caravans come with different features.  This is just how ours is configured.  There are automatic sliding doors on both sides, too.  Sweet!  I've heard that the Grand Caravans are more reliable than the Town & Country vans, too.  That makes this Mama even happier.  I'm glad I didn't settle.

Now that I've bragged on my van a little, I'm thinking philosophically about the downsizing part of the story.  Wow.  I now have five "kids" who are adults, including two who are married.  I even have two small grandchildren who live nearby.  My youngest is almost eight.  Two more of my adult daughters will probably move out this year, and we can shuffle the bedrooms again.  Two of my older kids will even get their own rooms for the first time. Glory!  Where did the time go?  I spent nearly 20 years pregnant and/or nursing, with only short gaps in between nurturing babies inside or outside the womb.  That took quite a toll on my body and my soul, and still I'm feeling the effects now. 

We were so idealistic starting out, but it hasn't been easy. There have been a lot of twists and turns and potholes along the journey.  I still have a good many years of mothering to go, and with the help of a Christian counselor, I'm learning to pace myself and rethink my paradigms about what it means to be a good enough parent.  I want to finish well, for my family and for me personally.  It's not exactly going to look like my original ideals, but life changes.  At least I've got a sweet Grand Cherryvan to ride in! 

How about you?  Leave a comment and tell me...

How has life changed you?  Are you upsizing or downsizing?  Having more babies or are your adult children moving away, or both at the same time?  How have your views shifted since you became a mother or entered a new season of life?  Or, on a more practical note, what are you driving and do you like it?

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Our Chill Out Spot

Welcome to our chill out spot!

What's that?

Back story: In a large home schooling family like ours, kids often get stressed out being together all the time.  When that happens, they are more likely to bicker.  And when THAT happens, Mom gets spazzed too.  Not good.

So...  Our Christian family therapist recommended that we create a chill out spot somewhere in our house.  It's just a comfy cozy corner, even in a room that others might normally be in.  It's a place to go when you're feeling edgy or just in need of some solitude.

Rule # 1 is that if you're in there, no one else is supposed to bother you or even talk to you!  Period!

We picked a corner of the living room, wedged between the piano and the couch.  The movable wall/door is a blanket rack - with a blanket on it, of course!  We did have to move out a large fish tank to make room.

A view from the top with big pillows, a bean bag chair,and a Sesame Street sleeping bag.

That yellow bin? It's full of dried beans. Six pounds of pintos and great northerns, to be exact. Apparently, it's therapeutic to plunge your hands into the beans and play around with them.  Yes, it works.

Rule #2:  Beans stay in the bin.  My grandson didn't quite get that memo.

Rule #3: No food or drink except for water.  We don't want to attract bugs.

There's another smaller bin, this one with tiny fidget toys like interlocking erasers. We even have a stress ball to squeeze and a snow globe to shake.

Rule #4: Don't take stuff out of the chill out spot.  Not sure where the stress ball is right now...

 And a pile of picture books...

So far, our chill out spot has been a big hit.

One glitch: the first night, one child pitched a fit because she wanted another turn... Oh my.  Since then, it's been pretty cool.  And it's been pretty well occupied by our five younger kids, ages 7 to 16.  In fact, all three nights, a different kid was sleeping in there.

The chill out spot is preventive medicine.  It's where kids send themselves for a time out before they (or you) blow up.  It's also restorative medicine -- good for after blow ups too!

Got kids with stress?  Give it a try!

You might also like:
Want to see the way the rest of my living room looks? (Or should look? Ha!)

Welcome to Our Living Room

Virginia Knowles